T Nation

Deadlifts: Should You Hold Your Breath the Entire Rep?


When I deadlift I take a deep breathe at the bottom, breathe out at the top then take another deep breathe before I lower the weight. Is this acceptable or should I strive to hold my breathe the entire rep?


I like to hold my breath the entire time, as it allows me to stay braced and tight, but it also blows out all the capillaries in my upper back/chest/face.

Do whatever allows you to brace hard and stay tight.


I’m the same. I don’t quite get the capillary blow out except in my face (from bench usually).


I burst a blood vessel in my eye benching once


I run out of breathe if I try to hold it the whole rep, but that’s probably because I tend to pause briefly at the top. I need to focus on doing my reps faster, which should take care of the losing breathe problem.


It’s honestly a trainable quality, much like all of lifting. When I initially started holding my breath, I would be able to get through a handful of reps before I “lost my breath”. In reality, all I was doing was succumbing to discomfort. As I made a stronger effort to hold my breath, I learned that there were really many phases to “losing breath”, and that you have to really just get good at enduring the misery.

You’ll start to feel tightness in your stomach at first, then it’ll rise up into your throat, then you’ll feel your heart beating really fast, your head will swell up, you’ll get light headed, and then your vision will start blurring/eyes watering. At that point, you probably have another rep.

Some of the tricks I learned are that you can actually still breathe IN a little bit at the top, which will placate the need to “breathe” during the rep AND get you even more tight. You also want to “swallow” the breath/air you take.

This is one of my longer efforts where you can see me trying this approach. Moving fast is of course very helpful too.


Thanks, i’ve saved this response in my evernote under a note titled “deadlift tips”


Hey, man, not to give unsolicited advice to someone way more advanced than me, but do you realize you aren’t locking out completely at the top/are hyper extending your back instead of pushing your hips through?

I get that shit happens, and that it might not matter in strongman (IDK the rules for deadlifts in strongman), but I was just pointing it out so that you don’t have anything bad happen at a comp. You probably noticed already, but I am just saying it encase you didn’t. Absolutely beastly lift by the way, Pwnisher.


@Destrength: I appreciate your concern. I actually think it’s kind of funny that you thought this was just a case of “shit happens”, because it’s actually how I train to get stronger on the deadlift. I rarely “practice” the deadlift, and spend far more time BUILDING the lift. Locking out reps like I would in a competition doesn’t really benefit me much in my training, as it removes stress from the muscles and places them on the joints. That’s super cool when you want to demonstrate to a judge that you have control over a lift, but I don’t find that it makes me a stronger deadlifter.

The appearance of the back hyperextension is partially a product of the use of chains necessitating an aggressive final extension (basically having to “outrun them”) when combined with the soft knees. The back is coming into play a touch (when I started heavily training the reverse hyper, my back started taking over on my deadlifts since it became stronger…it was kinda crazy), but my hips still play a pretty large role in initiating the movement. It might not translate to film, but that’s why I say form tends to be inconsequential when it comes to technique.

When it comes time to compete, I know how to transition from “training mode” to “competition mode”

I realize some folks DO need to spend more time in the gym practicing the lift along with building it, and I have a few movements where that is the case, but deadlift isn’t one of them.


I think when you’re performing compound movements your breathing is arguably the most important thing. You shouldn’t start the movement until you have proper breath, this will help put you in the best position to do the movement properly. Valsalva breathing is important for completing these big movements and it will keep you the safest. Then learning how to use it depending on the reps will vary. When doing reps I like to do 1 -3 reps at a time and then reset. You can also re-breathe after each rep, whatever you feel comfortable with. When you have a barbell in your hand I don’t believe you should exhale until the rep is over.


any exercise where you need to brace your abdominals I would hold my breath for the entire rep


I came across a podcast where Mike Mahler was interviewing Christian Thibaudeau and Christian mentioned resetting your form after each rep of the deadlift. This makes sense to me, as it will allow me to hold my breath for each rep and allow me to focus more on good form.